Biden calls on states to keep mask mandates, pause reopenings


President Biden on Monday urged state and local officials to reconsider lifting their coronavirus restrictions and to reinstate mask mandates that have lapsed as the U.S. faces an increase in cases.

"I'm reiterating my call for every governor, mayor and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate," Biden said at an event intended to highlight the rapid increase in vaccine eligibility. "Please, this is not politics. Reinstate the mandate if you let it down.

Asked later if some states should pause reopening efforts, Biden said "yes."

Upon taking office, he issued a call for Americans to mask up for the first 100 days of his administration, arguing that doing so would help curb COVID-19 cases while the country ramped up vaccinations.

States have aggressively started lifting mask mandates and easing restrictions on businesses and events in recent weeks as vaccine availability steadily increases, prompting concern from some in the federal government.

Biden previously criticized states like Texas and Mississippi that lifted mask mandates earlier this month, likening it to "Neanderthal thinking."

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier Monday warned Americans against letting their guard down against the virus, saying she felt a sense of "impending doom" over rising coronavirus cases.

"I'm going to lose the script, and I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope. But right now I'm scared," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing Monday.

"We do not have the luxury of inaction," Walensky added.

The United States has surpassed 30 million cases of COVID-19, and cases continue to rise.

According to Walensky, the seven-day average of new cases is around 60,000 per day, a 10 percent increase over the past week. The numbers are still a far cry from the peak in January, but the rise comes after a sustained period of stagnation.

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